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Media Learning: The Practical Exclusion of Rural Students

Students enrolled in rural learning institutions including both lower basic and secondary schools have been practically excluded from benefiting from the distance learning method which is being tutored through the television channels and radio stations.

The strategy was employed by the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) in March in order to avoid a total breakdown in the academic calendar following a presidential order that all schools should be closed to be able to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry has since spent a total amount of over D4 million to contract media houses and content development.

In a presser last month, the Permanent Secretary, Ebrima Sisawo has indicated that out of D4, 619, 859.00, D 900,000 was to be paid to GRTS, the same amount is to be paid to QTV, D200, 000 to be paid to Star TV, D65, 217 to be paid to each Radio station, a total of 27 radio stations taking the total amount to D3.7 million (D3, 760, 859.00) as well as the payment of D859, 000 for content developers.

However, many students who are living in the rural areas have not been actively taking part while others have been missing it completely due to lack of electricity and inaccessibility of the majority of the media houses offering the program.

“To be honest with you, I’ve not been following this program. I have no access to television and the radio is a problem to listen to. Sometimes, you will be listening to it and get distracted or even run out of battery for the radio. I cannot use my phone because charging is a problem here. I wanted to but can’t bear the cost,” says a 13-year-old six grade student, Yama Baldeh from Upper River Region.

Alasan Bah, a teacher and resident of Jamwelly in the Lower Saloum believes that the authorities are cheating the rights of the rural kids, claiming that the ministry knows that most of the rural kids are not connected.

Alasan Bah

“As a concerned teacher, I have realized that students in my village are not benefitting from these lessons being broadcast on the radio and television stations because there is no electricity in this village that will enable the kids to follow these programs,” he tells The Chronicle.

“How can kids benefit from these lessons when they have no access to televisions, radios or mobile phones to view or listen to these lessons. I think authorities at education should reconsider this decision otherwise there will be biases against the rural kids.”

A concerned resident in Marsey village, Biran Bah has observed that children have not been following education programs on television and radio in his community.

He claimed that there is no television in the entire village where children could have the opportunity to follow the lessons designed by the ministry.

“Personally, I want to suggest that the authorities opt for other methods other than lessons on radio and television stations because it will be very difficult for the provincial kids to follow.

“I think the authorities should also try to arrange extra classes for kids after Covid-19 so that the lessons lost can be recovered if they are concerned with the plight of the rural kids,” Bah suggested.

However, the head of department for modern language at Kaur Senior Secondary School, Sako Jeng said the move is meant to encourage social distancing in order to protect both teachers and students from contracting the deadly virus.

He believes that students following the lessons through the radio and television stations will keep them connected to their books.

The State of Public Emergency declaration which came as a result of the pandemic has been estimated to directly affect about 674, 300 pupils across the country in both conventional and Madrassas schools, ranging from early childhood development schools to Senior secondary schools.

An estimated 72hours of instructional time would be lost during the initial 21 days of school closure and more hours will continue to be lost due with the extension of the State of Public Emergency.

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